Pitti Immagine Uomo is coming up, and you probably have been invited to multiple events; don’t even mention weddings. Are you sure you have everything you need to decipher the different dress codes? We’d like to help you with a mini guide on the seven most essential men’s dress codes to know. It will be helpful for you to orient yourself to any event and be the perfect guest.
What is a Dress Code?
Receiving an RSVP indicating a dress code always elicits conflicting reactions. On the one hand, we feel enthusiastic about participating in an event that promises to be unique; on the other, we are afraid of being unable to get the dress code correct that was set out by the organizers. So how can you be a perfect guest for any situation?
Let’s start by specifying that a dress code is a set of clothing rules people are asked to follow. It can be explicit, for example, when indicated on an invitation, or discreet and dictated by the context. Think, for instance, of a business meeting or a wedding. Even though there is no indication in the email to arrange the appointment or participate, by context, you will know that you shouldn’t dress casually.
What are the advantages of a dress code? Beyond improving pictures’ aesthetics, it guarantees guests’ equality and promotes relationship building. Disadvantages? You will feel out of place if you have not been a good connoisseur of the rules of male elegance.
Here Are the 7 Main Dress Codes to Know
1)1) White Tie Dress Code Tailcoat: maximum formality in the world of men's clothing
If you happen to receive an invitation where the dress code indicated as White Tie (in international phrases, you may find synonyms such as full evening dress, tails, or dress suit), know that you will be taking part in a significant event and that among the guests there will be nobles, royalty or members of high society. This dress code represents the maximum formality required of all participants.
It is an increasingly rare dress code nowadays, whereas, in the past, it was the standard for elegant events such as those depicted in the famous TV series Downton Abbey. Consider that White Tie, even in the Royal Box at Ascot, is not required today.
If you receive a White Tie invitation, know that you will be asked to wear a tailcoat, the formal men’s suit of excellence consisting of the iconic blazer with pointed lapels and swallowtails. You will have to wear a white shirt (pleated or regular), cufflinks with butterfly collar and a white bow tie with a waistcoat of the same color. The shoes can only be laced in black leather.
How to wear a tailcoat? Make sure you wear it unbuttoned and that your trousers are not too big, so it doesn’t attract attention away from the overall elegance of the look.
2) Black Tie Dress Code: interpret the rigor and elegance of evening events with a tuxedo and bow tie
After the White Tie, the Black Tie is undoubtedly the most formal dress code, even when compared to its variations that we will see below.
It is used strictly for evening events, held after 6 pm and often after 8 pm, such as award ceremonies, significant anniversaries, birthday parties, and prestigious balls. It leaves little room for interpretation and personal ideas.
Black Tie means strictly black tuxedo and bow tie (the name says it!), white shirt (pleated or smooth) with cufflinks worn with the collar points facing downwards (or a shirt with a spread collar that is not too open), black laced shoes, mirror polished, and black silk socks. Be careful; do not wear them in any other color, even darker tones. It’s the details that make the difference!
An unforgivable mistake in this case, as with the White Tie, would be to opt for pre-packaged bow ties…don’t do it!
Some may ask, does the tuxedo have to be black? Not necessarily; it can also be blue, as long as it is a very dark shade (did you know that it was created in this color?). Approved by Hollywood actors, the white version is only permitted for en plein air events.
Is the satin sash mandatory? Not necessarily, but it is recommended, especially if the blazer has shawl satin lapels.
Is the vest mandatory? No, but it can be worn, especially if the blazer has peak lapels.
Is the clutch bag mandatory? No, but if you decide to wear one, choose a white linen or cotton clutch. Keep it simple!
Do the blazer lapels, whatever their shape (peak or shawl), always have to be made of silk? No, although the blazer will express maximum elegance with this fabric. However, wool or velvet are also great, season permitting.
Dress Code Black Tie Optional: venture out with minor variations on tuxedos and bow ties
What can a man wear when invited to a Black Tie Optional event? Remember that a dress code is always required for formal occasions when choosing an outfit. Always in the evening, from 6 pm onward, when the rigor of the Black Tie is maintained but lightened up.
You are allowed to replace the tuxedo with an elegant suit in darker tones or a tie instead of a bowtie, but you will undoubtedly be out of place if you show up in a suit (strictly forbidden!) or a light-colored suit. You will still need to bring a white shirt and a pair of black leather lace-ups.
The watchword is still elegance. Remember that the tie is mandatory; giving it up would be a serious mistake. Color block ties or ties with discreet, non-eccentric patterns are recommended.
Doubts about how to wear a tie and make sure you wear it the right way?
Here, we’ll help you make the right choice.
4) Dress Code Black Tie Creative: add a touch of color to the rigor of the tuxedo
The Black Tie Creative is an original variation on the Black Tie code, which is increasingly requested by classic-styled parties capable of creating trends. The rule is straightforward: add a little color and creativity. Remember, however, that this is a variant; therefore, the guidelines we have listed above also apply in this case.
What should you wear if you receive such an invitation? A hand-tied black silk bow tie is essential. You can play with the rest.
You can wear a tuxedo by adding color (for example, in the sash or waistcoat) or an elegant suitcapable of interpreting the theme for which this dress code is usually required due to its shapes, colors, or patterns, as in the case of the “Black Tie 1920s” or of the “Texas Black Tie.”
Another mistake to avoid is thinking you can tone down the elegance with sports accessories, such as sneakers, unless you are a teenager!
5) Business Formal Dress Code: consider it already implied for business meetings
Business lunches, trade fairs, or conferences are the only dress codes you will not find explicitly written in an invitation. It is already implied for most professionals. The most important part of this code is the blazer and tie. Yes, to both solid color two-piece suits in gray or blue (darker shades are preferable the closer the appointment is to the evening) and to pinstripe suits. The shirts must essentially be white or blue. The vest can be a detail to add, but it is optional.
The objective is to communicate a professional image, avoiding any excess. We therefore advise against wearing ties with colors and strong/or showy patterns. Tight-fitting trousers should also be avoided. These are all elements that contribute to making the whole look more informal.
6) Cocktail dress code: wear natural sophistication for late afternoon events
It is the dress code required for events, which are usually held in the late afternoon, that is also alluded to as ‘After five.‘ The organizers invite participants to present themselves in refined, elegant, but not excessively formal clothing.
There are many options available to men as outfits. One option is elegant trousers complemented by a shirt, usually white or light-colored, with an optional blazer and tie. Avoid the tuxedo, as it would be excessive and out of place.
However, a pair of separates is fine if you want to wear a blazer.
There are no particular limitations for colors, even if dark tones are always more elegant.
7) Casual dress code: feel free to style yourself
It is the only dress code considered a “non-dress code,” where you are free to style yourself however you want. A man can do without a tie with the casual dress code, leaving room for sports trousers and an informal, casual shirt, even with prints. The choice to wear a blazer is also optional.
As a variety of casual, we have both business casual, which is with an elegant suit, even patterned, not worn with a tie, and smart casual, a pair of chinos, a shirt (or a t-shirt), and a sweater blazer or cardigan on top. With smart casual, you can even wear jeans, shirt, and shirt-blazer, without a tie.
Have we helped you a bit? We sure hope so!
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